Wishcraft: Truth Behold

I only put up with the bard at all because Emilie Autumn likes him. Sure, I’ve read about how he invented modern English (in any case, influenced more than all the Jutes ever could), that every story is just one of his stageplays rearranged, and that his works are absolutely the only way to remain human in a Huxleyan Dystopia.

Maybe I don’t like him because I was lucky enough to be tasked to comprehend his greatness in 10th grade English literature class. Mostly, though, I don’t like his stuff because I just don’t like his stuff. It’s rarely given me all of the feels to snuggle into. Relating to Sonnet 121 provided a bit of an ego boost? Appreciated it. Otherwise…

Okay, otherwise, it took some footnote rant in an academic-seeming paper about how there is no connection between Shakespeare’s King Lear and Manannan mac Lir to get me to read a Shakespeare play voluntarily. My immediate reaction was that I had better start reading King Lear to search for any connections between the Lear and the Lir. You know…to keep them properly apart.

I didn’t find Lir. I did find Cordelia. In a striking similarity to many surviving versions of the Beauty & the Beast (most not-Disney ones of that) and Cinderella fairy tales, Cordelia had two wicked sisters. Cordelia herself was supposed to be The Good One, but I felt the text itself welcomed the interpretation that Cordelia is initially kind of a jerk. “I cannot heave my heart into my mouth.” Integrity isn’t only about your personal feelings, Cordy! Communication maybe matters in a relationship? Heave your heart into your mouth, girl, and tell your dad you love him he is clearly the most insecure thing to breathe air and your country will collapse into an anarchist democracy or something if you don’t…oh, fine, be that way.

Really, though, I read this at the time that I sought refuge with my extended family, and my uncle was putting the pressure on for me to convert to Catholicism and forgive a self-righteously unrepentant Miasma for abusing me. On my life with a roof over my head, I couldn’t heave my heart into my mouth either.

What’s re-occurred to me lately has been this couplet:

Time shall unfold what plaited cunning hides
Who covers faults, at last shame them derides

The strict cadence is known as iambic pentameter, an iamb being any two syllables that pair unstressed to stressed. Compare the English words “desert” and “dessert”. The latter is an iamb. Pentameter refers to five (penta) such two-syllable iambic meters.

I could chant Cordelia’s couplet over and over like a curse, although it would only be a curse or a blessing in the contexts that it should be. If this spell works for the truth to out, then it should by nature rebound on the caster. Whether that risk is worthwhile is not the question: My god of Truth is a hungry warrioress.

I could take a representation of all the illusions and distractions that can be met in life…

…and draw a unicursal pentagram on it with my finger, two syllables per stroke like a metronome.

I feel that a similar spell could possibly be found in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Telltale Heart. To counter these, however, there’s Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s…most stuff I guess. There’s also the real-life story of then nine-year-old Maria de Sautuola who discovered the cave paintings of Altamira in the 1870s. Her father was ostracized for fraud, the authenticity of Maria’s discovery only vindicated after his death. It’s that last story gets me staring at the wall with the corners of my mouth turned down.

What if there is no magic spell to summon truth? Whether it’s science or crime investigation there could be only work, luck, more hard work, all too easy to override if enough people can lie loudly enough or even silently pass it on.

But back to Cordelia. She was apparently a historical figure originally mentioned in The History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth, without any corroboration outside of it. Shakespeare retold Cordelia’s invasion as an utter failure, probably for expedient tragedy’s sake, and Tate later gave everybody a happy ending and made Edgar a mustachio-twirling creeper. If it happened at all, it might be something in between. Monmouth’s King Leir sought asylum with Cordelia after Cordelia’s sisters usurped him. (Cordelia’s sisters usurped Leir after he disowned Cordelia and married her off without a dowry.) In response, Cordelia raised an army and battled to reclaim the throne. Of course, after Leir died of old age, he left the throne to the one daughter out of three that didn’t usurp him, even though Cordelia was the youngest. The throne that Cordelia essentially won in battle was lost mostly to politics: that her elder sisters made legitimate baby heirs with the dukes of neighboring countries, and that they probably begrudged her more than they did each other, sealed Cordelia’s fate.

That version would well serve as a lesson to talk less, smile more, and not let them know what you’re against or what you’re for. I’m more inclined to work with Cordelia in hopes of gaining some reinforcement so that I never make that mistake again.

Otherfic Meta: Spectrum Trilogy

The following entry contains personal details that may be triggering.

So, I reorganized some Otherfaith fanfics I wrote into a series, and thought to share more here about the process. (Edit to add: hey, this is a lot in line with Aine’s post on writing the myths.) Note that I’m all for the figurative Death of the Author, also less known as the Birth of the Reader, so this certainly is not to put out that I heard a voice, or had a dream, and therefore this bit or that bit is a truthier truth.

I.

Ironically, I’d say, it’s Princess Irene’s obscurity (wasn’t named in the Founding of the West, just in the Wikia) and liminality (roles usually being of a mediator and herald) in the existing body of Otherfaith canon that I considered so intriguing and was why I wanted to write more of her.

My thought process during Almost Heroes, a writing experiment not part of the trilogy, went sort of like this: “Ooh, I like her, so she gets a comity-shipping cameo with the Ophelia. Wait, am I mythologizing my real life history? Yeah. Irene’s got to be there when Mary Sue starts crushing on the science teacher lady, because I really wish that some guiding spiritual presence like Irene had been there then, as first loves of lady-loving ladies in a no homo world. Wait, and Irene can turn into a bird? The Laetha’s a bird, if they fought I wonder who would win?” And I thought, “Obvously, the god would win in a fight with a spirit, so what would make it as though there’s tension?” And I thought, “It can’t be a challenge on neutral grounds, then, it must be…a surprise attack on the god’s sacred personal space.”

And then I thought, “Ulp, now my headcanon Irene did a bad thing.” My headcanon Irene did possibly the worst thing, and I never even did get around to revisiting the elation and yearning of what I guess people in temperate climates euphemistically call a spring awakening. How one makes up for messing up was also a very interesting question, though. But I didn’t want to write an Irene whose turning point in character development was…a deliberate Mary Sue, who I’d originally stuck in there to explore the more established, more prominent personalities of the myths, and a way to write the gods and spirits enacting their scopes of responsibilities.

I picked up the story again after I’d read up more on Laetha shards, and figured Aletheia 003 to be the best character foil for this Irene, because of all the meta I caught around The Red Room.

Peace At Last was mostly a way to organize the elements of a complicated idea, not so much to resolve the question or announce the role or method of forgiveness in the Otherfaith.

I may have also caught a sort of disembodied voice shouting, “Libel!” at an earlier retelling of The Red Room that I’d posted, but the main idea that voice pushed for, of reversing William’s and A003’s roles, was still something I thought (and decided) would fit in neatly. So, as far as woo might go, I’d say that’s still par with my just deciding that the Firebird and Irenebird would fight instead of figure out, like a responsible plotter-writer, some avian way they could bond.


(The above painting gives me Irene feels, though Aine tagged it for the Laethan Firebird on the tumblog. They could have a lot in common.) (Also yay Irene has a tumblog tag!)

II.

Upping the woo, lowering the word count. Here are some excerpts from my noxary (dream diary or dream journal, and I write sideways on notebooks with dotted or plain paper, to double the size of a page uninterrupted by the spine.) These inspired the sequel, Songs of the Sunsets. Except for the third dream. That one was just weird.

18 Sept 2015. Princess seated between hourglass and clock stained glass circle before her like anathema device time was set but she still wanted to interfere.

19 Sept 2015. Queen-of-Years-but-not moved the telescope and hourglass. Kaleidoscope window on a balcony looked over indigo twilight.

20 Sept 2015. Wandered a bookstore, bestseller was a romance between an angler fish and a remora.

These records drew similarities to Anathema Device (a character from Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman) although not a correct one because that character was very much for doing what she’s been foretold, and also the Queen of Years from the new Doctor Who although in the dream the red cowl looked worn by somebody bigger than a wee child and I don’t remember more.

I actually shouted when the not-really-Queen-of-Years moved the stuff, and this woke up my corporeal friend and roommate Cecilia, who woke me up to say that I sounded like I was being tortured. It must have been important in the dream not to move the stuff.
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The Evil Enchantress of the East Coast


Image by Sophie. Sadly, the official promotional images are rarely as good as the fan-art.

Oh, Once Upon A Time. I have been vacillating between hatecrush and ragequit on this show since the middle of the second season. It’s become a show that personally offends me on so many levels, at too many moments. It’s also given me some of the most resonant poetic imagery I’ve seen in pop culture. The demonstrative power-play of ripping out somebody’s heart and whispering one’s commands to them is chilling because on some level that is sort of what truly happens when something figuratively like it happens…of course the magic of romantic love is fuchsia and gold, and of course the land of eternal youth will have one island full of death skulls and hourglasses.

Lately, I’ve been wondering about The Evil Queen from Snow White’s fairy tale. This show gave her a name (Regina), a redemption arc, and a long-lost sibling in the Wicked Witch of the West.

Shortly after her redemption arc (that is, Regina turning from apocalyptically wrathful to merely snarky) she began to show her care with such heartwarming lines as, “Nobody is allowed to kill you but ME!” While couched in terms of self-aggrandizement and…uh, threat of homicide…viewers who have gotten to know Regina over the episodes can easily take this as her way of saying that she considers you a friend and will protect you.

It’s difficult for me to understand or accept. To spin vitriol like that into something positive can be a trap. In too many ways have verbal abusers tried to dismiss a victim’s perspective with how the victim is just humorless, or should know the abuser well enough by now to somehow know what’s really meant and adjust their reaction accordingly.

And that’s too bad, because there does seem to be a process to it that I also found paralleled in some rituals of Ancient Rome (from Melissa Mohr’s A Brief History of Swearing):

Bullae, the necklaces containing phallus-shaped fascini, were thought to shield their wearers from the evil eye—they had what is called apotropaic (from the Greek meaning “to ward off”) power. Songs containing obscenities could, in the right context, also protect people from evil forces. They were sung when someone’s good fortune was likely to attract invidia, envy or ill will. They offered protection in two ways—the obscenities themselves contained the power to ward off evil, and the songs’ mockery took their subjects down a peg or two, to a level where they no longer invited individa. Victorious generals were serenaded with fescennine songs—their moment of triumph was also a moment of great weakness.

When Julius Caesar returned to Rome in 46 BC, for example, he was publicly celebrated for vanquishing the Gauls and publicly mocked for being the cinaedus of Nicomedes, king of Bithynia, many years earlier. The obscenity and mockery of these verses were thought to protect Caesar at this vulnerable moment when hundreds, even thousands of people might be watching him with envy.

Okay, I still don’t understand. Maybe ritual obscenities operate like some psychological or spiritual vaccine, but as the corporeal and everything else operate on an increasingly less one-to-one correspondence, I would just as easily say that cussing someone out in any context is spiritually unhygienic. (Maybe I still have a bad taste in my mouth from an argument against trigger warnings that went something like…people who get triggered by things will never learn to tolerate life or to function normally without getting actively triggered as often as possible. Or at least as often as the sort of world and life that got such individuals so traumatized in the first place.) (As far as I could figure out, this was an unironic argument.)

I should also note that the above quoted ritual wasn’t, evidently, very effective. Senators didn’t turn their dagger-like glares and glowers away from Julius Caesar. They just got their hands on actual daggers.

Still, this may have influenced a number of later superstitions about “signs to ward off evil” also being obscene gestures, or statements of forcefully false modesty. I have a feeling that there could be something to it.

*

The Evil Queen, when originally recorded by the brothers Grimm, had been Snow White’s mother. This is interesting, as this character had started the story off with a wish for a child with “hair as black as night, skin as white as snow, and lips as red as blood” and she basically got the good-looking daughter that she wished for…and then proceeded to enact elaborate and impractical schemes to get rid of (or punish) her daughter for being so good-looking. Even though that was what the queen wished for in the first place.

That’s a definite lot of irony there, that I think is a shame to miss out on in almost all modern versions that turned Snow White’s awful mother into an awful stepmother instead. The implied inevitability of mixed families having more awkwardness settling-in then eclipses any other motivation.

The character of Regina isn’t exactly envious. Her vices are portrayed as some cover-up for grief or loneliness that she believed would be weakness to admit to. She’s been shown as possessive (a slight-but-present distinction) and wrathful…but never covetous.

Zelena—the given name of the Wicked Witch of the West—is the envious one instead. This is why the Wicked Witch of the West, in Once Upon A Time canon, is green. She’s green with envy.

Their respective characteristic vices might not have played off one another in the best way, (and I mean even just on the level of a thematic cohesion,) but when it comes to an examination of the thing and what to do with it, I wonder how it would play out.

It’s less about recognizing the “complex characterization” and more recognizing the “concept characterization” then.

Regina could easily embody the profanity that wards off the destructive properties of invidia.

The Mapmaker

I re-read a short story by Neil Gaiman called “The Mapmaker” about, it seemed to be, a Chinese Emperor who had developed an interest in creating maps. He almost emptied the royal treasury in the creation of an island that would imitate the geographic features of his country, that would be updated daily in response to earthquakes or wildfires, with every miniature house being as near-perfect an imitation as could be managed. When the same Emperor said to the advisor that the next map to be made would be a life-sized representation of his own country, with each house represented by a house, and each citizen represented by a citizen…the council decided that this had gone too far, and the story hints that they assassinated the Emperor in his sleep. The new sovereign, incidentally, had no interest in cartography at all.

I wondered what would have happened had they allowed the Emperor to wake up and behold his country, with advisors also telling him that the map he sought had already been constructed while he slept, and so all he need do was behold it and compare it to itself. Such a map would be one with the territory: completely accurate, and thus completely useless. It all depended on how well an advisor could mess with the Emperor’s mind, a mind so organized that it had become a mess.

*

In the symbolism that I explore now, the spider’s web has grown in significance. I discovered some old notes from when the significant symbolisms were mists (perhaps in parallel with the experience of psi or subtle energy), masques and mirrors. Maps would have fit in with those just as well.

Those symbolisms didn’t exactly flow, even though I liked what they meant. It might be the difference between a gesture and true sign language, or a wordless sound and a true spoken language. Alone, a gesture or sound can convey meaning, but the underlying rules determine the language.

In his Red Book, Carl Jung wrote (translated by Sonu Shamdasani): “The ancients lived their symbols, since the world had not yet become real for them. Thus they went into the solitude of the desert to teach us that the place of the soul is a lonely desert. There they found the abundance of visions, the fruits of the desert, the wondrous flowers of the soul.”

I would have thought that the case would be the opposite, that ritual acts lived the symbols precisely because the world was real, even hyperreal, and the map would be the territory. To consider physical acts only having physical causes or consequences made a world map of the world, in the same way that the mapmaking Emperor could have if only he had thought differently.

Aristotle’s Poetics and Finally Some Structure to Wishcraft

Tune in for Aristotle being such a sexist!

Lately, I’ve been thinking of Poetics. The word reminded me that I never got around to reading Aristotle’s lecture notes on Greek theatre, The Poetics, so I finally got around to reading it.

It didn’t have much to do with my Poetics, or my ideas of what it would be as these ideas form, but it was an interesting read.

Much of it pertained to the technicalities of Greek theater, specific meters, how the Chorus should be treated, dramatic beats defined as Reversal of the Situation (Peripeteia) and Recognition and the necessary setups for that (I’m guessing that’s now like the chase scene as a narrative convention that Charlie Chaplin rebelled against in his time, which is not to say that narrative conventions such as “chase scene” or a “main character” aren’t worth exploring the significance of in its context or even today), but a lot of it could be applied to any narrative. It’s definitely dated, although interesting that Aristotle made the distinction between that which was virtuous, that which was appropriate, and that which was “ennobled”: so, characters in a play must be good and even a woman who is also a slave and doubly lowly can technically be so; but must also be appropriate, and valor and cleverness in a woman was inappropriate to show to audiences onstage (while learning something new would be a big draw, on some levels individual audience members do expect some validation of some of their worldview as-is); and yet, every defect of character preserved and presented onstage is necessarily ennobled by a poet. There were also some recommendations for information that must be left offstage, even as it affects the story shown onstage. The definitions and history of comedy versus tragedy were also interesting, with the comedy having no history according to Aristotle because it wasn’t taken as seriously (ba-dum-bam) as epics and tragedies.

The Poetics proposed that the stageplay was an imitation of life, and there was a whole chapter on how to address critics of a play on the basis of how the imitation went. To me it spoke of how artistic license and the tumultuous relationship between the work and the audience have been issues for a very long time.

*

Six parts of a drama that determine the quality according to Aristotle (translated by S.H. Butcher here): Plot, Character, Thought, Spectacle, Diction, and Song. I conjecture that they go in order, when Aristotle continued that two constitute the medium of imitation (so, I’ll guess that’s Plot and Character), one constitutes the manner (Thought, or perhaps theme as the political and rhetoric), and three constitute the object (Spectacle, Diction, and Song.)

I think of it more like the story as medium versus the story at large and at small. If we start small, a story is primarily description, dialogue, and narrative (or spectacle, diction, and song.) As a medium, audiences infer characterization and plot development or plot twists from the primary. I sometimes think of narrative as broader than plot, so they should switch places in size rankings, but I’ll position Song in a special way in my own system later. Thought, or what I could call Theme, positions the work in the context of society, which is the larger view of storytelling.

I recognized notions as both the basis of a belief system and generated or synthesized by the same. Beginning to think in ritual structure, now, the qualities in parts of a drama can serve as placeholders of a structure that can synthesize notions, the filler of the structure being the Ogdoad (and the application in Ways, that I haven’t yet written about.)

(Developments in Ogdoad can be followed here, although I recently decided to just do away with affricates and plosives already and just make a language with what’s left.)

I have thought about some significant differences between the Animist approach to mystic elements (that treated these powers as animate) and the Ceremonial (that tended to treat these powers as inanimate or resonant worldly extensions of the elements within oneself). Ogdoad would be neither, rather themselves being a perception filter construct, strengthened by recognition of how these notions (or elements) invite or apply to the greater world.

A one-to-one correspondence of narrative parts to Ogdoad definitely made it simpler, but I guess if intuition moved for a ritual that was all Pawn, or all Castles (even in the song, plot, and character positions) then that’s how it would go.

At first, I figured that the Pawn would always be in the position of Song, if I think of Song more as the connections that make the whole more than the sum of its parts. Depending on the notion to be synthesized, (which would only be complicated if one thinks in categories that would then fracture the notion rather than activating a whole that can then only be described in what would once have fractured it) the “plot” of the spell can either be imbued Kingly, Queenly, or Pawnly; same as the “character”. And the final three qualities would be imbued with the remaining pieces, for balance of the spell, and compatibility with that which the spell applies to.

Outside of this, where most modern spellcasters would put a circle, I’d put a triangle instead: sea, sand, and sky; the pledge, the turn, the prestige; or craven’s, maven’s, and haven’s ways. Craven’s Way applies more to personal development, Maven’s Way applies more to external entities on the same wavelength, and Haven’s Way applies to external forces and entities not on the same wavelength.

More On Poetics

Previously, on The Codex of Poesythis is such a prettier word for semiotics!

What has best articulated my idea of notions in wishcraft, lately, has been philosophy. I remember hiding out in Miasma’s apartment with her four roommates when she was in university. They would let me read their books, and some of those would be books that they brought from home, and some of them would be the texts they bought for their lessons. One of them was a giant tome that they named Big Bob. It was a compilation of the very important writings of a bunch of dead white guys, for the required philosophy courses.

When I read some of Big Bob, I noticed that the terminology of each academic ancestor was as personal to him as his underwear. The notions of noumena versus phenomena might be contextualized and apply slightly differently, but I thought it might as well be the same thing as the signifier and signified. Then again, in the same book, some English-writing philosophers insisted upon using the French verb form of “to be” (est) in order to highlight “being” as a more significant concept that the English word could convey. The same went for what might be colloquially known as “capital-t Truth” that some dead white guy or other insisted was not mere truth, as English would have it even with Pointed Capitalization, but he would evoke some ultimate transcendental version of the same concept by using the Greek word for it (that would be alethia, but always with a capital A.)

Big Bob got thrown at the wall a lot, accompanied by primal screams of frustration.

*

I thought that a notion would be the basic unit of a belief, while recognizing that a belief system also generates or synthesizes notions. The dynamic activity between the two became what I now call Glamour.

In studies of witchcraft, the predecessor to what I call wishcraft, I learned of some branches that included material components for the correspondents, and of other branches that preferred to work with subtle energy. In the latter branch, either one didn’t trust the chain of cause and effect, or one saw that chain lead into the mind’s associations and then wondered why bother with that externally-situated cognition at all when it could all be done with the mind and its perception of subtle energy.

When I noticed the treatment of subtle energy among members of the community…flip-flopping in the force of authoritativeness between a conserved quantity (as with encounters with subtle energy leeches) and a performative entity (as with the presence of “dark” subtle energy or “negative” subtle energy when both should have been privative by nature and would not necessarily be awful unless somebody else’s subtle energy were on a different wavelength or quality), I concluded that subtle energy itself is a correspondent or symbol. Subtle energy to me became a signifier for something else-and-deeper that would interfaced with perception.

The idea of different planes of reality or otherworlds through which this subtle energy moved began to seem to me like an effort to create a one-to-one correspondence of physical energy in one world and subtle energy in the otherworld. It would still be a compelling metaphor, but I felt that I ought to return to checking my personal perceptions and interpretations before deciding on a metaphysical model.

It’s not all only personal perception, although adopting any perception that is not the perceiver’s own is impossible. I still believe in the world, although the meaning, quality, or value of any one thing in the world would change depending on the context and the approach of a perceiver, I still believe in realities beyond myself. A tree falling in the forest with nobody to hear it will still make a sound, but whether one can have a care about a specific event that one cannot or does not perceive is another question.

*

It’s that caring that I began to wonder about. Notions became not only about qualities or qualia or meaning, but meaningfulness.

Rather than a one-to-one between the physical world and physical energies, I began to find far more similarities in the dynamics of society to metaphysics. Social or cultural power imbalances and dynamics can have very real effects.

Glamour worked just as well for both, but I began to wonder about toradh in fairy lore, the social equivalent I suppose would be personal agency. I wonder about it being nascent, then reified, then stolen or corrupted or undermined or devastated. I imagined toradh as a node in the glamour, or like the seed inside a peach, the notions waylaid and bound together enough that it could become something else (although that bundle of notions would itself be a notion, just like part of a notion is just a notion with irregular sticky edges.)

As for what a notion is, I’ve resorted to Derrida’s differentiation. Any one notion is itself because it is not something else or anything else. While focusing on the negative space around a concept might come off a bit, haha, lacking…it stands to reason that diversity could only fail to define a thing through the thing being what everything else is not (occupying the same spacetime, having the exact same qualities of the phenomenon, not outside of identified boundaries) by absolute cosmic homogeny. So, differentiation it is, even though I still make the distinction between dualities: extant and privative, mutually exclusive, complementary, potentially able to synthesize, focused and peripheral…all different approaches to diversity-definition.

On Poetics

The French philosopher Gaston Bachelard once wrote an analysis of what he called the poetics of space. The inside of a house, he said, acquires a sense of intimacy, secrecy, security, real or imagined, because of the experiences that come to seem appropriate for it. The objective space of a house—its corners, corridors, cellar, rooms—is far less important than what poetically it is endowed with, which is usually a quality with an imaginative or figurative value we can name and feel: this a house may be haunted, or homelike, or prisonlike…The same process occurs when we deal with time. Much of what we associate with or even now about such periods as “long ago” or “the beginning” or “at the end of time” is poetic…

— Edward Said, “Orientalism”

By the same rule, there would be poetics of the body: gender, ethnicity, ability, sexuality, kinship, therianthropy; under an ability to see light, there would be poetics of color, and poetics of a specific body part such as an eye. There can be poetics of relationships, kinships too, kithships (maybe if that’s a word), acquaintances and romances.

The poetics of space can be national, architectural, or directional. The directional can be south, or left, with levity and gravity, or dorsal and ventral. With the latter, and in other cases, poetics of space can overlap with poetics of the body.

There are poetics of words and language, poetics of concepts and notions, poetics of mathematics.

But if I say that there are poetics of category…that’s just too meta, gone too far! (Technically, it had already gone that way in the poetics of concepts and notions.)

I wonder what makes the poetics incomplete as a concept that it must be anchored or expressed in ritual, or must be reflected back somehow by the world for the poetic to be complete and validated? On the other side of it, what poetics makes a ritual empty?